Photograph stories-Dear Mum 3


The incident with the sheriff was quite a high moment in what had been a traumatic week that ended with our mother’s death.

It happened one afternoon when we had climbed into the car to escape what was happening. My brother was taking us to Monterey Bay where the beaches are white, and seals dive into a turquoise sea.

On the way we stopped to explore the Mission San Juan Bautista, founded in 1797, and used by Hitchcock to film scenes for Vertigo in 1957. I was disappointed that there wasn’t a bell tower- the original bell tower had been pulled down in 1949 and the bell tower in the film was added later using special effects- but the white building in the sunlight was beautiful in it’s simplicity.

Later,walking through the town of San Juan Bautista, where a Spanish Franciscan priest all those years ago had preached Catholicism to the native Americans, some of whose graves lie in the Mission churchyard, we began to feel better- the weather was warm, unlike in San Francisco which had been misty and cold all week. Huge plump cacti towered above walls and for the first time in days we began to relax a little in the balmy air.

Walking arm in arm down the main street my sister and I  peered through the windows of the sheriff’s office and to our delight a real sheriff came striding towards us and stopped to talk. (I can’t imagine feeling the same in this country about an officer of the law but I grew up loving cowboy films like Bronco Lane,The Man from Laramie,The Lone Ranger and Wells Fargo!)

Then, as we turned to walk on down the sidewalk a Chevy slowed down and a man in a huge cowboy hat leaned out, his arm on the open window and smiling at us said:”Hey, I don’t think we’ve met!”

My sister and I were  delighted,it was the slow way he said it in a relaxed,lazy drawl that sounded slightly suggestive; it just made us feel better and it made us laugh.

And laughter,so present and real,makes you feel connected and alive.

Which is something you are acutely aware of when someone close to you dies.





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